The North County Times Editorial, April 19, 2007

Court’s unwelcome diagnosis

Our view: Without exception for women’s health, ban on abortion procedure favors morals over medicine

In 2003, when it passed the strategically named Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, the Republican-led Congress decided it knew more about women’s health than the people more often associated with medical expertise: doctors. On Wednesday, Congress was joined in its arrogant assumption by a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court.

And thus a movement supposedly dedicated to championing “life” has codified just how little it cares about the lives of vulnerable and, yes, pregnant women. They care so much they would wedge an ideology and politicians in between a physician and patient.

Wednesday’s majority opinion, penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy of Sacramento, is the first time the Supreme Court has allowed an abortion procedure to be outlawed. Now that retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has yielded her gavel to the more conservative Samuel Alito, you can bet it won’t be the last.

Most troubling is the ruling’s lack of an exception for a woman’s health — which lays bare just how far back the Supreme Court has set the cause of women’s rights and health.

What opponents call “partial-birth abortion” is called intact dilation and extraction in medical practice. Granted, it’s an abhorrent procedure — so much so that by itself it justifies the “rare” part of the “safe, legal and rare” formula favored by abortion-rights supporters. It is also rarely used, accounting for less than 1 percent of all abortions in 2000, according to the abortion-rights-supporting Guttmacher Institute.

But Kennedy’s opinion not only adopts the nonscientific language of the religious right — instead of a fetus, it talks of an “unborn child, a child assuming the human form” and of carrying “the infant to full term” — it also privileges a moral diagnosis of a woman’s supposed mental and moral health over her very real, very dire physical health. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which represents about 90 percent of the physicians in those specialties, endorses the procedure as medically necessary in some cases to save the pregnant woman’s life. To save her life.

It’s no coincidence that the court’s lone woman, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote and spoke the blistering dissent to a decision she called “alarming.”

“For the first time since Roe (v. Wade), the court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health,” Ginsberg said.

But the court’s majority isn’t content to play doctor; Kennedy’s opinion makes clear they want to play counselor and spiritual adviser to suffering women, as well. Kennedy claims, “It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event,” the gruesome nature of the abortion she chose.

What is decidedly not “self-evident” is why the courts should uphold a law that overrules physicians based upon nonscientific suppositions of a woman’s state of mind.

Wednesday’s decision is clearly the green light long sought by those who want to outlaw abortions — and thus sentence pregnant women to health risks, back alleys and unwanted children. Congress must forestall this disastrous return to the dangerous days before Roe v. Wade by repealing the regrettable act of 2003. Women can’t wait for the relatively younger conservative justices to leave the bench; they need their rights and reproductive freedoms protected long before then.

The North County Times Editorial, October 9, 2006

Vote no on Prop. 85

Our view: Parental notification before abortions sounds good, but courts a poor substitute when kids can’t depend on their parents

Most parents would want to know whether their daughters are contemplating having an abortion. But not every daughter considering an abortion has a supportive parent. A few have dangerous parents.

In a nutshell, that’s why California voters should reject Proposition 85, a statewide initiative on the Nov. 7 ballot that would require a minor’s parents to be notified before she can have a legal abortion. The state’s laws aren’t just there for the girls from good homes with loving parents; they are also supposed to protect the ones who are in danger.

The right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy can’t be contingent upon a parent’s involvement or knowledge, because there are some cases where the interests of a child and her parent are not the same. Yes, in most cases we trust that a girl’s parents would act in the best interests of the child. If every girl could count on such parental support, California would have fewer abortions, an outcome that should please both sides of this bitter and important debate.

But the hard truth is that every girl in this state can’t turn to Dad because, in rare cases, Dad is also the father of her unborn child. Sometimes, telling her parents means risking a beating, or worse.

Teen pregnancy rates have plummeted in California in the last decade, and teen abortion rates are likely down as well. Every major medical agency in the state opposes Prop. 85, indicating that the alternative the initiative offers isn’t more safe abortions under parental guidance, but rather more “back-alley” abortions performed without the medical supervision and counseling now provided by clinics such as Planned Parenthood.

Proponents say a pregnant teen would be able to seek a judicial waiver if she has good reason to avoid notifying her parents. But this proposal is impractical at best, and deceptive at worst. In the most dangerous cases, teens aren’t going to wait until they have the urgency of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy to find their way to a courthouse so they can tell a judge about their dangerous home life, knowing that telling the judge will likely bring the law down upon her parents.

We may wish more teens in such a tight spot would turn to the courts for help, but wishing won’t make it so. Instead, it seems far more likely that teens will make their pregnancies “go away” in quieter, more dangerous ways.

Parents shouldn’t rely on laws to force their daughters to confide in them in their hour of need. Rather, open, trusting communication is the surest bet to foster the kind of relationship wherein a pregnant teen will talk to her parents about her options, including adoption and abortion.

Talk to your kids. Let them know that you’ll be there for them should they ever be faced with such a terrible, momentous choice.

Then vote no on Prop. 85. The last thing children not as lucky as yours need when they’re pregnant is another bureaucratic barrier forcing them into the shadows.

The North County Times Editorial, October 11, 2005

Vote ‘no’ on Prop. 73

Our view: State government has no place in a girl’s abortion decision.

The wrenching decision whether to have an abortion is inherently personal —- and none of the government’s business. Voters should reject Proposition 73, which would alter California’s Constitution to ban abortions for girls unless their doctors notify their parents.

On the surface, Prop. 73 seems fairly reasonable. After all, children under 18 must get a parent’s permission before receiving routine medical care or getting a piercing at the mall, so what’s wrong with forcing doctors to tell a parent or guardian about a minor’s impending abortion?

For one thing, California’s girls have been doing fine without parental notification. Rates of teen pregnancies and abortions have been falling for years. Studies suggest that most girls tell their parents already.

Other studies have concluded that abortions have not declined in the 35 states that require parental consent or notification.

So Prop. 73 is not needed, and it won’t work to reduce abortions. What it will do is force some desperate teenagers into the shadowy and dangerous world of illegal abortions.

Supporters point out that girls who feared retribution from abusive parents could ask a court to act as a guardian under Prop. 73. This is a cruel joke; imagine a girl who is pregnant, probably poor, and perhaps suffering under an abusive parent —- what are the odds she will call a lawyer or otherwise enter the judicial system?

To be sure, we all want fewer abortions in the world. And we all want teenagers to communicate better with their parents.

But just as surely, there is no place for government in either of these worthy goals. Prop. 73 seeks to do two offensive things at once: It would let the state diminish a young woman’s right to choose to end her pregnancy, and the ballot initiative would insert a vast bureaucracy —- complete with civil penalties for health care providers —- into the relationships among a doctor, a pregnant girl and her parents.

Prop. 73 is a hurdle, plain and simple, placed before pregnant girls by people who want to roll back abortion rights more broadly. They must be rejected on Nov. 8.


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